Gallowglass by Barbara Vine

A suicidal teen is rescued by a charismatic drifter with designs on a woman he calls “The Princess.”

Gallowglass has not been my favorite Vine (the alter ego of crime writer Ruth Rendell), but subpar Vine is still head and shoulders above most of what’s out there in the mystery genre. Where Vine succeeds best in this book is in depicting Joe’s thralldom to Sandor, the man who rescued him from jumping front of a train. An orphan raised by loveless foster parents, Joe has a need for love that approaches purity in its sexlessness. Joe calls himself the gallowglass, which means helper to the chief, but he’s actually the real princess in Sandor’s story–trapped in a tower, rescued and forever bonded to his savior–despite the contrary nature of Sandor’s treatment of him.

The other romantic relationship in the book feels undeveloped. Vine is so good at delving into the psychological ties that bind people to one another, but I believe she failed to give us enough meat on the bones in the other half of this book. As a result, the climactic scenes lack the emotional power that typically characterizes Vine’s books. There is a twist ending that I felt really fell flat, and the overall impact of this book was that it felt rushed. There was a better book in here than what Vine produced.

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